July 23, 2014 by Natalie

Here’s Why I Give

Last week a canvasser from the Blue Bench (formerly the Rape Assistance and Awareness Program) came to my door, and while I often politely and nervously tell canvassers to leave, I decided to listen to her spiel and donate some money to the cause.

This inspired me to reflect on giving. It’s incredibly important to me to contribute to organizations who do good work, and I encourage everyone to give even a small amount. Nonprofits have suffered immensely in the economic downturn, and even as the economy recovers, nonprofits continue to have less money and face increased demand for services.

One of our core values is generosity of spirit. For us this means making the effort to give our time, knowledge, assistance, and breakfast burritos to each other, our clients, our business partners, and our community.

I incorporate this value into my life, and here are the organizations that I give money to because they probably don’t need breakfast burritos:

Black Girls Code

Black Girls Code Class

In 2013, only 19.7% of software developers were women. And only 4% of those women were black. If the number of black women devs was directly proportionate to the number of black women in America, there would be at least 36 black women developers for every 300; instead, there are only two.

At larger companies, the median income for an experienced software developer is $90,000. In comparison, the median income for black households is around $33,000.

Kimberly Bryant, an engineer, founded Black Girls Code in San Francisco after her daughter came home disheartened by her experience at computer science camp. The organization now operates in several cities across the United States, and nearly 75% of its students attend the code school on scholarship.

We’ve written quite a bit on the CK blog about getting more women into tech, but the problem isn’t simply a gendered one. It’s also about race, economics, and basic access. Black Girls Code aims to give girls of color exposure to great teachers and resources so that they have the knowledge, experience, and confidence to enter into technical fields as adults.

I love this organization, and I hope we can convince them to come to Denver.

My neighborhood school

Brown Elementary, Denver

My daughter starts Kindergarten next month. Just writing those words provokes a spasm of terror in my heart. But aside from the fact that my daughter is growing up at a freakishly fast pace, there is also the reality that Colorado spends nearly $1800 less per pupil per year than the national average.

Teachers at my neighborhood school don’t have the budget to buy items like whiteboards, books, games, and storage bins, so they ask for help on websites like Donors Choose.

Even if you don’t have children, donating to your neighborhood school benefits everyone. A study conducted in 2011 shows that good public schools create happier communities, even for people without kids:

The researchers discovered a strong correlation between community satisfaction and quality schools. The better the schools (as people perceive them), the more satisfied people are with their communities — and this is true whether they have children attending them or not. This positive relationship holds even after the researchers controlled for other community and individual characteristics, suggesting, they write, that “public school quality uniquely contributes to community satisfaction” above and beyond other common explanations, such as high rates of homeownership or job availability.


I give to my neighborhood school not just for my child (in fact, I gave to it before she started there), but to support the community I’m part of.

Brady Campaign


I’ve known several people who have died from guns. Many Americans do. I moved to Colorado in 1998, and since then there have been two horrendous mass shootings, at Columbine High School and the Aurora movie theater.

Growing up I went to camp for a month every summer in the northern woods of Minnesota. I rode horses, canoed the Boundary Waters and the Crow Wing river, sang cheesy songs around the campfire, and cried when I had to go back home. I was also a pretty good marksman.

Camp Birchwood, 1993

The author (front row, center, in the black tank top), at Camp Birchwood. Early 1990s.

I shot my first rifle when I was eleven, and I quickly earned up to the Sharpshooter Bar 4 certificate, through the NRA Marksmanship program. I loved shooting.

We were taught to be incredibly careful around guns, and I never once even thought of them as a weapon. I liked shooting paper targets. I liked holding my breath so that I could keep the barrel of the rifle steady. I liked the thrill of seeing the bullet holes in my target. And I liked turning the empty plastic ammo boxes into painted jewelry boxes.

My final year at camp, right before I started my sophomore year of high school, they took away the NRA Marksmanship program and replaced it with another. I was disappointed. I’d looked forward to earning my Expert certificate and hanging each badge on my wall next to its corresponding targets.

After I came home from camp, I spoke with my parents about it, and I learned what the NRA was becoming, and why so many parents protested against the camp continuing the NRA Marksmanship program.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Note that the camp didn’t get rid of the rifles. We could still access the rifle range, shoot at the same targets we’d always shot at, and enjoy responsible access to guns. Instead, the camp took a stance against an organization that was increasingly becoming less and less about responsible and reasonable gun ownership and more and more about deregulating an industry that has enormous safety implications.

This is why I give to the Brady Campaign. Since then, I’ve known several people who have died from gun violence, including one person killed in a mugging, one person killed while trying to break up a fight between people he didn’t even know, and several people who’ve died from suicide with guns.

Consider giving to an organization that helps tackle violence through research, education, direct action, intervention, rehabilitation, or some combination. There are so many great nonprofits out there; give to one that matches your passion.

California WIC Association & Food Bank of the Rockies

Pregnant woman on a bicycle

Riding a bike while pregnant. Yes, I did it all.

I found out I was pregnant during the first month of my final year of graduate school. My partner at the time and I were excited but nervous, as all parents-to-be are. The baby was due June 30th–just a few weeks after I was scheduled to graduate. I would still have health insurance through the university, and I had secured a paid instructor position for the entire school year.

However, as many instructors, adjuncts, and TAs know, that pay is pretty slim. My partner wasn’t making a ton of money either, and we discovered that we qualified for WIC (Women, Infants, Children). WIC is a government program that provides food assistance to pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children up to age five.

I signed up for the program, and I was given checks every month for cheese, milk, tuna, peanut butter, carrots, cereal, bread, and juice. It was such a great supplement to have, and it really helped us out when we were struggling.

I finished my Master’s exams, graduated with honors, then my baby was born ten days late on July 10th. I began immediately cobbling together different jobs: I was doing research for a professor, contracting with a company I worked for before grad school, and writing trivia rounds for a pub quiz company based out of Colorado, Geeks Who Drink.

When my daughter was four-months-old we moved back to Colorado, and I stopped receiving assistance from WIC. My partner had a much better job, and I secured a great position, which led to the job I have now.

Since then, I’ve been giving money to the California WIC Association, and I think that I’ve more than repaid them for the assistance they gave me when I needed it.

Getting access to good food is critical, and it can be especially difficult for children in impoverished communities to be adequately nourished. This is why I also give to the Food Bank of the Rockies.

Giving to your local food bank is an incredibly easy and direct way to impact the lives of people in your city, and while it’s not necessarily about community empowerment or social justice, it is a service that people depend on and genuinely appreciate.

I also give almost every time a cashier at a grocery store asks me to donate a few bucks for cancer research, children’s health, the Red Cross, or any number of organizations. In my monthly budgets I consider giving a non-negotiable, like paying my electricity bill.

pay-it-forwardEven if you don’t make much, it’s always possible to give. Earlier this month at LAX I found $20 on the ground. Instead of pocketing it, which I seriously considered, I decided to pay for a few strangers’ coffees.

Not only was that more fun for me than keeping $20, but it also created a tiny bit more joy for several other people. I know I’m being cheesy, but hopefully in turn this helped those people be a little more patient, a little kinder to someone else in their lives.

Giving is the gift that keeps on giving.

New Why loves working with non-profit organizations! If you’re looking for websites for nonprofits, social media management for nonprofits, or Google Grants / online advertising for nonprofits, look no further.

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